The Armenian National Congress (HAK), the country’s largest opposition alliance, said Sarkisian’s decision to freeze the parliamentary ratification of the Turkish-Armenian protocols exposed the “bankruptcy” of his foreign policy.
“By suspending the ratification process and at the same time expressing readiness to continue it, the regime is, in effect, acknowledging that it has found itself in deadlock … and is trying to save face before the domestic public and the international community with deficient, unprincipled and inconsistent actions,” the HAK said in a statement.
The alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian repeated its claims that Sarkisian embarked on the rapprochement in order to gain international legitimacy at the expense of broader international recognition of the Armenian genocide and has failed to earn Armenia any tangible benefits. “Contrary to its declared aims, the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process has turned into a Turkish-Armenian confrontation process,” it charged.
Armenia -- Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian holds a news conference, 23 April 2010.
The reaction of another major opposition force, the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, was more nuanced and mixed. Commenting on Sarkisian’s Thursday appeal to the nation, Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian said the president acted like “a good tactician in the existing situation.”
“But a good strategist should not have allowed such a situation to arise in the first place,” Hovannisian told a news conference, reaffirming his party’s strong opposition to the protocols. He said that while making “convincing” points Sarkisian stopped short of withdrawing Yerevan’s signature from the accords.
Another vocal opposition critic of the protocols, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), has yet to officially react to Sarkisian’s move. Still, the party’s foreign policy spokesman, Giro Manoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Thursday that the president should have gone further and scrapped the deal altogether.
A spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Eduard Sharmazanov, dismissed the criticism on Friday. “With this address, the president demonstrated that the Republic of Armenia is against normalizing relations with Turkey at any cost,” he told journalists.
All three opposition groups strongly object to a protocol provision calling for the creation of a Turkish-Armenian panel tasked with studying the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. They say the Turks would exploit the existence of such a body to keep more countries from recognizing the massacres as genocide.
Unlike the HAK, Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun also reject another clause that commits Armenia to explicitly recognize its existing border with Turkey.